When Should You & Your Partner Introduce Your Parents To Each Other? Experts Say It's Complicated
Meeting your SO’s parents can obviously be a bit nerve-wracking. But having their parents meet yours? That poses a whole different league of anxiety-inducing possibilities. Will they get along? What if they don’t have anything in common? Or worse, what if they tell an incriminating tale from your childhood that ruins your flawless reputation with your partner’s parents? There are a lot of possible outcomes to consider. Which makes one wonder, when should you and your partner introduce your parents to each other?
Confession time: I felt cool as a cuke when I finally met my boyfriend’s parents, but when it came time for my mom to meet my boyfriend’s parents, I was far more skittish. You see, my mom is a bit — eccentric. Some might call her a “loose cannon.” You never really know what she’s going to say, and while sometimes her comments can be undeniably hilarious, sometimes they can border on inappropriate or downright offensive. So, yeah, I was a wreck in the days leading up that fateful meeting. And I know I’m not alone in that trepidation, either, because my BFF’s mom didn’t even meet her husband’s parents until their engagement party.
So, can you relate? Well, experts agree that there are very good reasons why you might feel nervous about this momentous introduction.
“If the relationship does not last, each person in the relationship has only risked more emotional exposure,” explains Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist and relationship expert. “Parent-to-parent meetings move social interaction to a weightier emotional level. And the greater the level, the more that is at risk. You put your parents in a vulnerable situation where they're expected to like not only your choice in partner, but also their families.”
Clearly, you’re putting a lot on the line in facilitating this meeting, which means it’s crucial to be careful in choosing when to do so. According to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and couples' therapist in Los Angeles, the best way to figure out if it’s the right time to make this introduction is to consider the stage of your relationship, the depth of your feelings, and the level of your commitment.
“You may want to introduce your respective parents to each other if you are in what is turning out to be a long-term relationship that is more than just casually dating,” he tells Elite Daily.
Dr. Brown notes that if you both have said “I love you,” have discussed a future together, and/or are living together, those are all solid signs that your relationship is serious, and therefore, that you're ready to introduce your parents to each other.
Dr. Wish adds that deciding to have your parents meet each other is a highly personal choice, and therefore, the timing of this milestone will vary from couple to couple. For example, she notes that being around your parents might reactivate unresolved issues — which you might not be ready to deal with in the presence of your partner’s parents, whose approval you're either trying to win or maintain. As such, Dr. Wish recommends taking a moment to imagine how it will go so you can start to predict what might come up and problem-solve ahead of time.
“See what issues emerge — and what feelings might surprise you,” she explains.
Dr. Wish also suggests having an open conversation with your partner before the meeting so that each of you can discuss your concerns. Are there certain topics of conversation you should avoid? Does either of your parents have dietary restrictions? Is one of them uncomfortable in large crowds? You obviously want both sets of parents to feel as comfortable as possible to ensure the meeting goes smoothly.
“Be aware of constraints such as the health of the parents or the distance, cost, and timing of the meeting,” she adds.
Experts agree that there is no “right” or “wrong” time to make this intro happen, and ultimately, the most important thing is that you and bae are both on the same page and excited to take this step. If you’re a little anxious (OK, more than a little) about how it’s going to go, rest assured that it’s totally normal to have some nerves, particularly if you have complicated relationships with your parents, and/or your partner does. Fortunately, you and your boo will be by each other’s side from start to finish, so regardless of whether your parents become fast friends or it’s awkward AF, you’ll have each other as a solid source of support throughout the entire meeting. Think of it this way: It's obviously ideal if your families happen to hit it off. But even if they don’t, it's not the end of the world — your compatibility with your partner is far more crucial than your parents’ compatibility with theirs, after all. Besides, if the very first meeting isn’t exactly smooth sailing (see Meet the Fockers), at least you and bae will have some solid material to LOL about for years to come.